NSF members and supporters. This inspiring commentary has been provided by General Joe Shaefer, an NSF member, speaker and contributor. We are proud to post this on this Veterans Day weekend. Patty Evans, NSF Executive Director.
Welcome Every Patriot, Honor Every Veteran
General Joe Shaefer
Once upon a time in America… we did not allow women to serve alongside men in our ragtag army. From our earliest battles however, as we fought to become an independent nation, some women dressed as men, some were laundresses and nurses, some rushed into battle as the need dictated. At least two whose real names are now known to historians gave rise to the term “Molly Pitcher,” probably an amalgam of many such stories. Two were granted military pensions by their respective legislatures.
In more recent times, when the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) of WWII, formed by the merger of Jackie Cochran’s and civilian test pilot Nancy Harkness Love’s predecessor organizations, asked for volunteers, more than 25,000 women applied to join the fight. Those chosen ultimately flew from 122 different Army Air Force bases to deliver every type of aircraft to the front lines.
Today women serve alongside men in every career field as long as they can exceed the same stringent requirements of the job. During the Kosovo campaign, when I acted as the A2 (Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence) at Air Combat Command, my top three targeting officers were all female. They were the best. Nations or causes that use just the male 50% of their brain trust will never match a nation that uses 100%.
Once upon a time in America… we did not allow black patriots to serve alongside their white counterparts. They may have grown up side by side in the neighborhood or the county but when the white boys were given the honor of serving, the black boys were not.
That began to change in WWII. My grandfather was a quartermaster for Patton, a white officer commanding black men denied combat roles. Without these men of the “Red Ball Express” whose diligence, bravery and work ethic allowed them to move 12,500 tons of supplies per day, Patton and the rest of the US Army would never have had the beans, bullets and fuel to press the advantage and continue the fight.
Today, there isn’t one of us, especially those of us who entered the combat arms branches, that wasn’t trained by a cadre of black and white NCOs who have been there, done that and whose training kept us alive.
Once upon a time in America… conscientious objectors like Alvin York and Desmond Doss were derided as cowards for their (in York’s case, initial) refusal to bear arm. These two patriots were awarded the nation’s highest award for bravery under fire. Many others served valiantly as well.
Once upon a time in America… Mexicans and other Hispanics, First Americans, and other ethnic groups willing to serve for a country whose ideals they embraced, were initially rejected, then accepted.
Once upon a time in America… Americans of Japanese ancestry were reviled, ripped from their homes with only what possessions could fit in a suitcase and incarcerated in internment camps. But just like the initially spat upon, now renowned all-black Tuskeegee Airmen, Japanese-Americans proved the detractors egregiously mistaken.
The all Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team was the most highly-decorated unit for its size and duration of service in America’s history. Two of every three soldiers serving suffered injuries serious enough to be awarded Purple Hearts. 21 of them were awarded Medals of Honor.
Clearly, a nation that excludes some portion of its citizenry from serving when their desire to serve exceeds all other desire is an intellectually bankrupt – and considerably weaker — nation.
We are now about 90% of the way to using all our national human resources. But, still, many detractors believe that those who entered our country illegally but are willing to lay down their lives for what we believe in should be sent back to their country of origin. Or that kids brought here illegally by their parents (kids who often speak English as their first language) and have never known a country other than America should be shipped to what is for them a foreign land. I’d say that’s fine – as long as the detractor is willing to sign up in their place. That wouldn’t happen.
Others believe homosexual patriots should not be allowed to serve. Sorry, folks. That genie is already out of the bottle. The number of homosexual veterans who have come forth to say they served honorably in combat and noncombatant roles from World War II forward shows that they have been serving all along, probably in greater numbers than we ever knew. Indeed, they served at greater duress since, if discovered, they would have been discharged, most often less-than-honorably.
How different are these remaining barriers to our fellow Americans than the women who served in the Revolutionary War who were also discharged immediately upon “discovery.” Discovery of what? A burning desire to defend the ideals we all stand for?
The answer to the question “Who should be invited to serve in the armed forces?” cannot and should not be “Someone who looks like me or talks like me or is my same gender or has my same sexual desires.” It should and must be “Who has the greatest ability and desire to serve as defenders of our ideals and our very existence?” Are these patriots willing to die for something greater than themselves? Then welcome them.
At a time when too many precious snowflakes were raised by parents who assured their child there was nothing greater in the world than their precocious little
self, our military recruiters have a diminishing pool of persons who understand there is anything greater than the Me. There is. As white women, black men and women, Hispanics, illegals, homosexual men and women and others have shown. They understand that yes, there is there is something worth fighting and dying for.
All such decisions must be made with a firm hand on the essential premise that anything which causes a deterioration in good order and discipline is unacceptable. That goes without saying. Slackers or those who cannot follow the rigid discipline that the defense of the nation imposes do not deserve to serve. If they fail in the crucible of training for combat or combat support they should and will receive a dishonorable discharge. As it should be.
Naysayers have repeatedly used the argument that women, blacks, Japanese-Americans etc. would undermine good order and discipline. It didn’t happen. Each new generation of our officer and NCO corps have simply done what our military has always done: adapt, take charge, move on, move out.
In a foxhole, do I care if the man on my right is black and the one on my left is an immigrant or Dream Act kid? Not one bit. I care that they are excellent shots, rational thinkers, well-trained, and disciplined. I care that they would die for me and I for them.
Pinned down by an advancing enemy three times my size and down to two magazines per man, when I hear the “Brrrrrtt!” of the 30 mm from the A-10 coming to save our lives, do I care if it is a black female pilot? Not one whit. I just want the most qualified, bravest, craziest badass pilot to ever take wing.
I want to know that we have used 100% of the pool of American patriots from which we then select the best and the brightest for the dirtiest and toughest jobs there are –- defending the nation. That includes even defending the naysayers who would disallow them the greatest honor many of us have had in our own lives -– the honor of loving this great country so much it might have killed us.
Welcome every patriot. Honor every veteran.
© J L Shaefer 2017